Orlando Magic have exceeded expectations but can they defy odds in the NBA Playoffs?

The Orlando Magic have exceeded expectations this season, but are they ready to make a run in the playoffs?

Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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The Orlando Magic have exceeded regular season expectations, but are they ready to defy odds in the NBA Playoffs?

The Orlando Magic have gone under the radar this season despite being a top-five seed in the Eastern Conference and being on pace to win nearly 50 games. They are currently the fifth seed in the East, a surprising outcome considering they were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings just a year ago.

When you break down why they have been successful this season, it’s clear that their biggest strength is their defense, which ranks among the best defensive units in the league according to advanced metrics. Let’s take a look at what makes their defense so effective, why their defense is far from perfect, and whether or not their sluggish offense will hold them back in the postseason.

It’s all about the little things for the Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic were pretty solid on defense last season, sporting the 14th-best defensive rating in the league in 2022. This season, their defense has taken a huge leap as they now have the second-most efficient defense in the league by this metric.

The Magic have a weird and unique profile on defense. The reason why is that they do a lot of small things at a high level on this end of the floor, but there are also a few significant issues with their defense. Let’s start with what they do well.

For starters, the Magic are exceptional at wreaking havoc on defense and forcing turnovers. They are one of just five teams to average eight steals and five blocks per 100 possessions and they lead the league in forced turnover rate with a mark of 13.8%.

The Magic have a ton of size on their roster. The shortest players in their three most used five-man lineups are Gary Harris and Markelle Fultz, who are both 6-foot-4, and they use this size to their advantage by disrupting passing lanes and erasing shots at the basket.

The Magic are also extremely good at grabbing defensive rebounds, ranking second in the league in defensive rebound rate. Five of their players rank in the top 50 in this metric, so it's clear that they have made this a big priority in their defensive game plan. 

It’s important to know that rebounding is a very important part of the game. It isn’t quite as important as scoring efficiently or limiting turnovers, but it is one of the most important factors when it comes to winning games. Keeping opponents from grabbing offensive rebounds and getting second-chance opportunities is very important and the Magic do this at a very high level.